Miscellaneous Poems

Exodus Parthenidae

The Lay of the Last Squatter

Adam Lindsay Gordon

DRAW your chair to the fire old woman
    The days are warm but the nights are cold
So, they’ve hunted our milkers off the common
    And pounded them, calves and all, I’m told
Had I caught “Long Henderson” driving “Molly”
    I’d have made him tell me ‘the reason why’
He’d scarcely have answered you so jolly
    Had I turned the corner suddenly

Faith, ’tis time we laid our oars in the rullocks
    We’ve got no right of commanage now
And the sheep are sold and the working bullocks
    And the cattle, all but the strawberry cow
I felt my heart for the moment soften
    When the butcher offered me three pound five
For the poor old thing that you’ve milked so often—
    She sha’n’t be slaughtered while I’m alive

And Robinson Brown has sent me his bill dear
    And Morton Jones has taken the lease
And the kangaroo dogs, ‘Lion’ and ‘Kildeer’
    Are sold for fifty shillings apiece
I’m sorry to part with the red dog, truly
    At fifty shillings I call him cheap
But the brindled dog is a trifle unruly—
    Oh Carrington Jackson, mind your sheep

I’m sure if Giles is satisfied, I am
    The horses averaged well and though
I’d like to have kept the colt by ‘Priam’
    ’Tis just as well that I let him go
For if my creditors won’t be losers
    I’ve set them scratching their heads, mayhap
And you know that some folk mustn’t be choosers
    Which folk I belong to—‘verbum sap’

I’ve had an interview with the banker
    And I found him civil, and even kind
But the game’s up here, we must weight the anchor
    We’ve the surf before and the rocks behind
So trim the canvas, and clear the gangways
    They’ve got the great unwashed on their side
It’s no use sparring with ‘Templar Strangways’
    It’s no use kicking at ‘Lavendar Glyde’

And I guess it’s all U P with the squatter
    The people are crying aloud for the land
They’ve made it hot and they’ll find it hotter
    When they plough the limestone and sow the sand
“All flesh is grass,” so saith the preacher
    “All grass is ours,” quoth Randolph Stow
Is the man related to Harriet Beecher?
    With mobile vulgus he’s all the go

And years to come in the book of Hansard
    You may read the tale of the frogs retold
How they prayed for a king, how their prayer was answered
    How the king was crowned, and the frogs were sold
How they ended, the schemes whose names were ‘Legion’
    In the Mephisopheles laughter note
From the depths of the Mariner’s gastric region
    That rattled up to his innocent throat

I wish you’d write me a line to Maddox
    (My fingers are cramped with that boring brute)
I’ll take his bid for the purchased paddocks
    The sum we mentioned he won’t dispute
I might have made better terms with Parker
    If he hadn’t known I was forced to sell
But I couldn’t have kept these matters darker
    I didn’t try to—’tis just as well

Fred Carson made an offer for Lancer—
    ’Twas a little less than his hide would bring
You may guess I gave him a civil answer
    Which put a stop to his huckstering
I loosed the old nag at the sliding railing
    And carried my saddle up to the hut
His eyes, as well as his limbs are failing
    He scarcely knew when the gate was shut

Aye, troubles are coming upon us thickly
    ’Tis hard to leave the old place at last
And you’re not strong, and the baby’s sickly
    And your mothers ailing and aging fast
I remember the days when credit was plenty
    And years were few, but those days are o’er
Old Beranger sings of the joy of twenty
    But I shall never see thirty more

It’s no use talking, things might have been better
    And then again they might well be worse—
You needn’t trouble about that letter
    The youngster’s squalling for a nurse
And your hand is surely unsteady
    That writing looks to be all askew
What! are there tears in your eyes already?
    Come, old girl, this will never do!

I might have taken Time by the forelock
    I might have made my hay in the sun
I might have foreseen—but wizard or warlock
    Could never undo what has been done
And at least I’ve wantonly injured no man
    Although I’ve lived on the people’s land—
Draw your chair to the fire, old woman
    And mix a drop of the battle axe brand

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